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November 11, 2009

I’m about to overshare personal information:

I have a deep affection for the furniture of the Arts and Crafts movement, particularly Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Also, Harry Chapin. My father loved his music, and I can probably still sing every track on Greatest Stories Live.

But that’s not what we mean when we say “TMI,” is it?

Mostly, I see people warn that they are about to give too much information when they are about to talk about their own sexuality — and not when they are interjecting it into a conversation where it is off topic. I usually see people — and, really, usually women — disclaim that they are about to overshare when the conversation is specifically about sex. As if it’s inappropriate, when discussing sex, to share one’s personal experiences with sex. I worry about that, because I believe it’s a habit of mind.

If we’re going to talk about sex, we need to accept that it is entirely proper to say explicitly what we do, what we like and what we think about. If we don’t, if we feel we can’t, then we don’t have any real idea what others’ experiences are.

It’s isolating. How many times has someone said something on a thread, followed by a string of “I thought I was the only one, I’m so glad to know I’m not alone”? Even for those of us who are totally within the mainstream — especially women — there is a terrible silence about sexual practice.

It’s silencing. If we have something to say, but we can’t talk frankly about our bodies or what we do with them, then it becomes very difficult to say bluntly what we mean. One of the most basic forms of argument in feminist discourse is, “what you say does not match my experience.” But if saying precisely what that experience is is disfavored, this argument is much tougher to make.

That’s not to say that we all have to share everything. We all have things we want to keep private. But when we want to say what we think and what we do, and we feel constrained from doing that or feel the need to mute it of qualify it for fear of TMI, that’s a problem with the rules of the discourse.

Don’t worry about TMI. Go ahead and say it.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2009 10:30 am

    Thank you! I always have an issue when people use “TMI” to excuse their talking about their own sexual experiences. It’s not too much information– it’s exactly the information that I want to hear! That’s why I’m listening to them, as their friend/ counselor/ teacher who wants to know what their experiences are so we can learn together and think together about our real lives. Although I must admit, I used the phrase recently in a conversation with my mom about condoms. But actually, it wasn’t too much information, it was a really nice interaction with my mom and brought our relationship into new territory. Thank you for this post!


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